Esports Experts Talk Girl Gamers

According to a recent study, half of the women in the U.S. say they’ve played video games. But only 6% call themselves gamers. With the boom in esports, there’s no doubt female gamers are on the rise. There’s a big shift coming for both girls and women in esports. So big that the Esports Business Summit in Las Vegas invited a panel of experts to explore the trends and opportunities to encourage female gamers.

“Esports connects with kids at an early age—but we have to ensure the percentage of girls that are excited about gaming when they’re young stick with it,” said Ann Hand, Chairman and CEO of Super League Gaming.  Hand said bringing together males and females to play will foster diversity in the esports ecosystem.

Hand shared her insights as a member of the panel, Girl Gamers:  Shifting the Meta, during the industry’s largest business networking event. Moderated by Dave Smith, Managing Director, Metta Sport, the panel featured Hand along with Eric Guthoff, Partner, Grace Blue; Michele Morrow, Host/Producer; Susie Kim, General Manager, London Spitfire; and Amanda Sanyal, Director of Digital Marketing, Logitech.

The panel challenged leagues, tournaments and game publishers to find more ways to inspire girls and women to be an active part of esports—alongside their male competitors. Especially because winning in esports has absolutely nothing to do with physicality. To be victorious in gaming demands spot-on decision-making, strategy and reaction and practice.

Kim, who manages the Overwatch League champion team and has been at the forefront of the evolution of esports, said, “Gaming is for everyone—you can be a professional gamer if you want to,” said Kim.

But Kim was quick to point out something that is often overlooked. “We can’t stop at cultivating women to be pro gamers, we need people in broader roles across the gaming industry. This is a thriving industry with so many roles for women. And this thriving industry is growing,” said Kim. She should know. Of the 14 professional esports teams operated by London Spitfire’s parent company Cloud9, a whopping 12 teams are managed and operated by women.

It’s the ever-present challenge to bolster females that goes well beyond esports. The onslaught of technology and robotics across a wider variety of industries make employees with gaming skills invaluable. “There are more male nurses today because males are quite simply more comfortable with a joy stick,” said Hand. “If we get girls playing together with boys when they’re young, there’s no reason we can’t encourage girls to continue gaming.”

Guthoff discussed the importance of learning from other industries—especially traisitional sports—what’s worked and what’s backfired with women. “Esports offers so much opportunity to encourage girls and women,” said Guthoff, who considers the “three P’s”—parents, partnerships and purpose—a game-changer for females in esports. “We have to educate parents, partner with organizations that encourage girls and women, and make sure we always have a purpose.”